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Friday, November 14, 2008

International White Truffle Fair Of Alba

If you’re in Piemonte in the autumn, beato te! Lucky you! You’re here during truffle season, which after the vendemmia, the grape harvest, may be the most important annual event of the year. The white truffles, tartufo bianco, that are found in Piemonte, and especially in the countryside around the city of Alba, are the most expensive and highly sought after in the world, with a single kilo selling for between €2,000 and €4,000. Each autumn the harvest is celebrated at the International White Truffle Fair of Alba. Weekends throughout October and November there are festivities such as tastings, hunts, concerts, lectures, classes, and more, with the heart of it all being the exhibition hall in Alba. This weekend, to mark the close of the season, there will be a truffle auction, and a Truffle of the Year will be chosen.
In honor of the occasion, and to honor this mysterious mushroom relative, here are a few truffle facts you may not yet know:

Although historically hogs have been used to sniff out truffles, recently dogs are becoming more popular as truffle hunters. Dogs can be trained to simply find the truffles and not eat them, while the hogs will immediately devour any truffle they can.

Truffles have a strange, symbiotic relationship with the oak, hazel, poplar, and beech trees around Alba. Attempts to cultivate truffles around the world have met with various degrees of success, which accounts for their continued rarity and the exorbitant prices they command.

White Alba truffles are best eaten raw; unlike the French black truffle they do not cook well. The aroma of the white is strong and pungent, and able to fill a room instantly.

Alba is an easy day-trip destination from Stresa. And if you are fortunate enough to go to see the festival, do keep a couple of things in mind. It will be crowded. So much so that getting into restaurants may be difficult. It may be best to bring a picnic lunch along, or to purchase food at one of the market stalls. But by all means buy your piece of truffle, bring it home with you, and then carefully shave your treasure over a bowl of buttered pasta or salad. 

Alba is approximately one and one half hours from Stresa by car. The White Truffle Fair runs for six weeks from October through the first weekends in November.

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